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Why antique glass is a cut above the rest.

Byline: Jeffery Muse

A NUMBER of collectors of antique glass aren't very keen on the cut variety.

Although they mightn't express it in the same terms, many would agree with the eminent Victorian John Ruskin, who declared: "All cut glass is barbarous: for the cutting conceals its ductility, and confuses it with crystal."

Certainly, cut glass is often misnamed "crystal" because of its similarity to cut rock crystal. It's also true that the fluid nature of much 18th century hand-blown glass is less obvious when the glass is thicker and cut.

Personally, however, I find cut glass has a beauty and interest of its own that makes it worthy of a place in any collection.

Cutting glass is a far from modern art. The Romans did it and the skill was subsequently revived in 17th century Bohemia.

In Britain, George Ravenscroft's new lead glass began to be cut in the early 18th century, although few specimens survive. Most cut glass available to the collector dates to after 1750.

The most sought-after cut glass hails from Ireland, made between 1780-1850.

Excise duty levied on glass in England led many English glassmakers to move to Ireland, resulting in the name "Anglo-Irish glass" for the wares they produced.

All of the cut glass featured here exhibits some characteristics which could be considered Irish, although none of it can be attributed to Ireland with certainty.

The earliest piece is the condiment bottle on a square moulded base.

A moulded base, often in the form of a lemon squeezer, is a feature of much Irish glass from about 1780-1820.

The shape of the bottle, combined with the shallow-cut vertical flutes and horizontal bands, is typical of the last quarter of the 18th century.

The bowl has a turn-over rim, a well-known Irish feature, particularly if combined with a pedestal stem and lemon-squeezer base.

The wine glass, although 20th century in origin, has been cut with a curved design known as vesicas, associated in earlier examples with glass houses in Cork.

The bowl stand, cut with deep horizontal prisms, is typical of Irish glass from around 1820 and exhibits the grey tint that often leads to an Irish attribution.

All of these pieces cost under pounds 10, which I think is remarkable for such attractive items.

My favourite piece is the late 18th century condiment bottle, bought from a recent antiques fair near Carmarthen for pounds 3. It has a replacement stopper but would surely grace anyone's dining table.


CENTREPIECE: Left, a cut glass condiment bottle, above, three other pieces of cut glass
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Nov 15, 2008
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